|The price of clothing and other non-food items on the high street has risen for the first time since 2011, providing an early sign of a revival in the retail sector and a potential boost for the British economy.
Non-food prices, which includes clothing, electricals, beauty and entertainment products, rose by 0.2pc in March compared with the same month last year.
It is the first time for 15 months that non-food prices in the UK have risen and follows a 0.4pc fall in February.
The increase has been prompted by retailers offering fewer promotions on products as demand from consumers strengthens, according to the British Retail Consortium.
Helen Dickinson, director-general of the BRC, said: “It bears out anecdotal evidence that demand is strengthening and promotions are less widespread than last year.
"Next month will be the 'one to watch’. It’ll be interesting to see if the prolonged unseasonably cold and wet weather leads to deeper discounting on spring lines for some retailers.”
In a further boost to retailers, the number of shoppers in London’s West End increased by 3.9pc over the Easter weekend compared to 2012, according to the New West End Company.
However, although the boost in prices could help retailers, it potentially means more pressure on cash-strapped consumers.
As well as a rise in non-food prices, food inflation remained at 3.5pc in March due to upward pressure on fresh foods such as fruit, fish and meat.
Britain’s service sector, which includes retail, looks to be the country’s best hope of avoiding sa triple-dip recession in the first quarter of 2013.
Further data published on Tuesday showed that manufacturing shrank for a second successive month in March.
The Markit/CIPS manufacturing purchasing managers’ index came in at 48.3, only slightly above February’s shock reading of 47.9, and weaker than the consensus forecast.
Any number below 50 denotes a contraction. March’s poor performance was blamed on tough market conditions, with lacklustre demand from both domestic and overseas markets; subdued client confidence; and persistent bad weather.